Alan Watts was a deeply inspiring philosopher, born in the English village of Chislehurst in 1915. Alan focused most of his time, and energy, on bringing the poorly understood Eastern philosophies to Western minds, in a manner that was both playful and enlightening.
During his 58 years here, Alan wrote over 25 books, the most popular of which are “The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are” and “The Way of Zen”.
“The Book”, as it tends to be known as these days, explores the question of who we really are, and why the nature of the true self is uncomfortable for society to accept. Alan is speaking here of the idea that we are all the same thing, that we are all fragments of the same suchness, and how the realization of this will embolden us. I mean, who wouldn’t feel empowered by the idea that they are the divine that humanity so desperately seeks? The problem is that society sees such points of view as arrogant and almost blasphemous, even to those who embrace no theism. When we, as a collective, can overcome this taboo then maybe we can become better stewards to this beautiful planet.
This is my favorite publication written by Alan Watts, as it really familiarizes the western mind with the ideas presented in the eastern philosophy of Zen Buddhism. The books explains how the philosophy of Zen was conceived from the older philosophies of Taoism and Buddhism. It stills remains, to this day, one of the best introductory books one could read on the subject.
Lectures & General Audio
Thanks to the rise of YouTube, and other video/audio hosting medias, Alan’s words of wisdom have received a global audience in the form of lectures, talks and interviews. I expect that Alan never dared dream that his words would make it to such a large audience, especially as he lived in a time before the internet was such a large part of the human experience. I do often wonder what he would have to say about the world wide web and how it has affected modern human consciousness.
Alan Watts died in his sleep on the 16th of November 1973, at the age of 58, while at his home in Druid Heights, California. His death is believed to have been as a result of his alcoholism, leading to heart failure. Embedded below is one of Alan’s last recorded lectures, at the University of California, in February of 1973. Even in his later days, he still spoke with the same passion and infectious cheerfulness that he was admired for.